A new DNA blood test for Rhesus-D negative women during pregnancy could spare treatment for thousands

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9 August 2016

A new high-throughput non-invasive prenatal DNA test (NIPT) reliably determines the Rhesus-D (RhD) status of the baby being carried by a woman whose red blood cells are RhD negative. Currently all RhD negative women are offered an anti-D immunoglobulin injection during pregnancy. This reduces the possibility that they could become sensitised to RhD if their baby is RhD positive, when there is a risk that an RhD positive baby of a future pregnancy would develop Rhesus disease with anaemia, jaundice and possible brain damage. But RhD negative women carrying an RhD negative baby do not need the injection.

The new test was recommended for the NHS by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in draft guidance published on 14 July 2016. (Full guidance is planned for November 2016.) NICE said research indicated that about 40,000 RhD negative women each year would be spared treatment with anti-D immunoglobulin; in addition there would be potential NHS cost-savings of more than £50,000 a year.